Character Study: Emily
“Odd,” she thought, “how someone can make high heels click on carpeting.” She watched as Emily rushed across the carpeted office floor, as if being chased by a swarm of bees. Heel clicking was definitely audible. Emily was always rushing, as if the very existence of the company depended upon her excessive movement. She believed that quick movements indicated to others that she was busy, working hard. More often than not, she was correct in that assumption since people tend to see only things on the surface. She had been promoted to management, partially due to her faux productivity.
The temp turned away, so as not to meet Emily’s gaze. She had learned quickly in this new assignment that to catch Emily’s eyes was to catch Emily’s wrath. You met all kinds of people, and experienced all kinds of managers, working in temporary assignments. Where Emily was all a loud fluster of extraneous movement with no focus, the temp was the opposite, quiet and observing with determined movements set to maximize efficiency in her allotted tasks. Emily disliked this temp, but she didn’t quite know why. The employee had quickly grasped the basics of her new job and completed things faster than expected. She should like that about her, but she didn’t. The temp knew that Emily didn’t like her. It had been obvious from the start, since the manager was completely without guile, with the subtlety of an explosive burrito fart in an enclosed 3 x 5 room. It was obvious to her why the boss didn’t like her. She was smarter than Emily and the boss knew it. Emily was terribly insecure about her abilities. She knew that people whispered that she only had her job because her mother was the CEO. Emily knew she had to prove herself every day, and so she rushed and tried to look important. She asserted. She let her subordinates know who was in charge.
The temp had turned away too late. Emily had noticed her and bore down on her with determination and noisy footfalls. The temp braced herself by curling her toes in her shoes until they hurt. Emily slapped both of her palms on the temp’s desk. She shifted her weight to her hands and leaned in, inches from the temp’s face. The notion of personal space was completely lacking, as Emily viewed this behavior as a strategy for commanding respect. The temp reflexively leaned away and clenched her toes more.
“Did you get the South’s report finished?” Emily had one volume and it was loud enough to drown out the sound of a jet engine, had it been in the room. Her voice was a nasal pitch somewhere between Fran Drescher’s most outrageous outbursts, Roseanne Barr at her loudest and the Wicked Witch of the West as she commanded her fleet of flying monkeys. The temp felt a burst of warm breath hit her cheek with each word Emily flung. “She must have just brushed her teeth,” she thought. “That’s considerate.”
“Yes. I have the printout right here.” She showed her the stack of spreadsheet numbers.
“You know that they are supposed to be set landscape and double-sided! Do it again! You just wiped out an entire forest with your waste!” She spun around and clicked off, satisfied that she had demonstrated again her management skills. There was no doubt about who was in charge.
The temp sighed but kept her toes clenched. She flipped open the binder that had the detailed instructions for how to prepare the report. They called it the Cheat Book. Sure enough, she had done it exactly as it was described — portrait and single sided. This wasn’t the first time that Emily had made her re-do work, changing things so that they went from right to wrong. The first time it had happened she had made the mistake of showing Emily the Cheat Book and asking if she still wanted it done another way. If there was one thing that was clear it was that Emily was never wrong. The temp would never make that error twice, so she exhaled and made the changes. She also knew that once the report was given to the proper person in South that they would complain about the formatting. Emily would blame the temp.
There were only a few weeks of this assignment, and then she’d be off to another. She could hold on for that short while, despite the constant onslaughts of Emily. “Besides,” and she smiled in a way that would have disturbed anyone if they had seen it, “I always manage to get even.”